But there are six who experienced a truly memorable career day as they got to experience that championship feeling.
Zeke Thurston saddle bronc ride
It was a phenomenal three-peat for Zeke Thurston in the saddle bronc riding. The Big Valley talent had topped the final four qualifiers with an outstanding 90 point ride on Timely Delivery in the opening round of action Sunday. But then he came back in the Final Four on another old friend, the Northcott Macza horse Get Smart.
“Every jump I thought I was going to get bucked off,” puffed Thurston, moments after a thrilling 92 point ride. “That horse bucks so hard. He’s probably only 800 pounds, but that’s one of the strongest horses I’ve ever been on.”
“Honestly, that horse could buck you off any day of the week. I was just lucky to stay on.”
It seems Thurston and Get Smart have already had a profitable kinship, and they’ll meet again at a rodeo next week. Ironically, it was the same two horses Thurston had Sunday that helped him win the Ponoka Stampede just twelve days ago.
Thurston’s championship score was just a half point higher than the 91.5 turned in by his friend Layton Green on Wild Cherry moments before.
“That was pretty special to be riding against your buddy that you’ve known since you were eight years old,” insisted Thurston. “We grew up riding steers together, came up through high school rodeo, learned to ride broncs together, and now to be competing against him at Calgary, it’s pretty cool. He made an awesome ride. I knew I was going to have to do something to set myself apart. Turns out I had the buckier horse, was all.”
Thurston, who just turned 23 on Saturday, hasn’t thought too much yet about inking his place in the history books as the first saddle bronc rider to notch a hat trick with the $100,000 paydays.
“That’s crazy to me. You know, a lot of guys will go their whole careers and maybe never win this rodeo and to win it three years in a row, that’s unbelievable.”
Thurston’s takehome from Stampede was $110,000, with the cash he won earlier in the week; while Green gets the $25,000 bonus to go with his earlier $13,000 take. Taking the third place bonus of $15,000 for a 90 point ride on Stampede Warrior was Taos Muncy, with Sterling Crawley getting a $10,000 bonus for his 89 point ride on Magic Carpet in the Showdown round.
Sage Kimzeys’ bull ride
For the second time Sage Kimzey rode out of Calgary with a giant cheque and a beautiful bronze for his efforts in the bull riding, capped off by a 91 point ride on the bull Night Moves.
“This is my third time in Calgary and to be a two-time champion already, it really is a dream come true,” smiled the three-time World Champion. “These are the ones we grow up dreaming about, getting to come here and be 91 points to win the rodeo. So it’s pretty special.”
For the cowboy, it was an eerie deja-vu moment, that he managed to alter the script on.
“There was a ton of drama. When I was out in the arena drafting my four-round bull, I picked the same bull that bucked me off here last year, in the pouring rain,” he recalled. “Sure enough, it started sprinkling again (this year) and then, here it comes, the rainstorm, hail storm, and I was like, ‘no, not again’. I closed my eyes and told myself ‘just ride him, that’s all you’ve got to do. Your job doesn’t change.’”
“It wasn’t happening again this year. He took my rope from me last year to make it to the Final Four. Then this year, there was a little bit of bad blood. It made it that much sweeter.”
“A hundred thousand is a lot of money for anybody, much less just a rodeo cowboy. There’s hardly ever we get to see this much money in one place. It’ll definitely start paying for the ranch I’ve always dreamed of.”
Adding to the bull riding saga was the fact Idaho’s Garrett Smith made a grand ride himself on Compton Bound. He was 90.5, just a half point behind Kimzey. But he’ll take home $25,000 as a consolation prize. Both Jess Lockwood and Joao Ricardo Vieira bucked off their bulls.
Richmond Champion bareback riding
The bareback rides were out of this world, both in the ten round and especially in the Final Four. But Richmond Champion was not about to waste an opportunity when he drew the C5 outlaw Virgil, turning in an awesome ride on the grey for 90.5 points and his first Stampede title.
“This is unreal,” bubbled the Texas cowboy. “That’s a horse I’ve always wanted. You think about getting on the best bucking horses in the world and then you imagine them somewhere at a place like this, but that’s just usually something you see before you go to bed at night. To have it really happen is just unreal.”
“I’m surprised I didn’t throw up, really,” he laughed, about his nerves and emotions before strapping his riggin’ on to the horse. “There’s no other bucking horse like him.”
Champion’s Stampede cheque total $114,833, including his earlier winnings. Taking the runner-up bonus of $25,000 was Stampede newcomer Mason Clements of Utah, who was 89.5 on Special Delivery. Manitoba’s Orin Larsen will get $15,000 after a rough go on Spilled Perfume for 70.5 points, while Jake Vold takes home $10,000 despite being bucked off by Shadow Warrior in the Final Four.
Steer wrestler Tyler Waguespack
Louisiana’s Tyler Waguespack only took two years in Calgary to make his way to the big stage for a steer wrestling bronze. He got his steer over in 3.8 seconds to be fastest in the Final Four round, and $100,000 richer.
“This is incredible,” confirmed Waguespack. “Last year I lucked up and got to come to this rodeo on an invite. This year, I qualified in. I won second last year, first this year.”
Waguespack is part of a crew of top notch bulldoggers riding the Wallace family owned horse Cadillac, and they were thrilled to add this last big rodeo accomplishment to the horse’s stellar resume.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” he added. “I’ve never won a cheque this big. I always said I wanted one of the big, pretty, Calgary bronzes so I finally got that, and the cheque’s awesome too.”
“I just bought a house down home, so a lot of it’s going to go into that.”
Cody Cassidy came in second, with a 4.0 second run, so he’ll take home a $25,000 bonus to Donalda. Stockton Graves finished third with a 13.7 second run, for $15,000 while Riley Duvall also broke a barrier, but gets $10,000 for his time of 14.7.
Tiany Schuster barrel racing
It was during the barrel racing that the once sunny skies opened up and added some theatrics to the day. But that didn’t deter Showmance from doing his job. Tiany Schuster hung on for the ride, and their time of 17.032 seconds was best of the bunch, to give her a big Stampede victory.
“The rain started when we were just coming in, and the horse just nailed that first barrel. The ground slipped a little bit, I think it was just a bad moment in time for us, but he gritted through it and I think it made him madder, and he just shot across there, and he just spun around that second barrel with such determination. I was just trying not to lose it,” she described excitedly.
Not expecting to be that fast, Schuster could hardly believe the crowd roar or the clock, and it wasn’t until the announcers declared her the winner that the truth began to dawn on her.
“I’m just shaking all over. I’m just at a loss for words and I’m normally not. I’ve never won a major event, never, never, ever.”
Because half of the Calgary $100,000 bonus counts towards the WPRA World standings race, Schuster is a long way down the road in a quest for a world title.
“It may just help me secure the number one back number (for the NFR) and that’s what we’re kind of after, and now I can say that in public.”
“The thing about Showmance and the thing about (my boyfriend) Edwin is they’re always there for me, and I know I can always count on them.”
Nellie Miller cashes in for $25,000 for finishing second with her 17.080 second run, with $15,000 going to Stevi Hillman for a 17.207, and $10,000 to Emily Miller for her run of 17.263 seconds.
Cory Solomon tie-down roping
Cory Solomon knew the path to the Calgary Stampede stage, and while it’s taken him five years, he made that walk again. All it took was 6.7 seconds – the time he posted in the tie-down roping Final Four round which no one could match.
“I just wanted to get a good start, and get my rope around the calf,” said Solomon, who credits mental preparation for his success, along with his good rope horse Twinkie.
“Twinkie’s awesome for this setup. She just goes to do her job and I just try to focus on mine.
“I did it in 2012, and I thought ‘it doesn’t get much better than this’. I came back here in the Finals a couple of times, and came up short. To do it again is like a dream come true.”
“I love this rodeo, and it’s been great to me.”
Taking second place in the Final Four was Timber Moore, who tied his clf in 7.2 seconds, and he’ll take home $25,000. Marty Yates will get $15,000, for being just a bit slower, at 7.5 seconds. And even though Matt Shiozawa missed his calf, he’ll still get an extra $10,000 for his Sunday’s work.
Al Bouchard with the Guy Weadick award bronze
Receiving the Guy Weadick award this year is roper Al Bouchard, recognizing promotion, sportsmanship, class.
“It hasn’t really soaked in that much. I was thinking here earlier the guys that’ve won this are pretty special people, guys I look up to. It’s pretty humbling thinking that somebody thought you deserved it.”
The Calgary Stampede bareback horse Shadow Warrior, and the saddle bronc Tiger Warrior were named best of this year’s show, while the honor for the bulls went to Cowahbunga.
All champions with their cheques
So this crew caps off an unforgettable day of rodeo on their road to becoming champions of the Calgary Stampede.